Disgraceful cut in wages for more than a million low-wage workers in Australia

In case you thought that neo-liberalism had gone and buried its head in shame after all the disasters that it has wrought after several decades of privatisation, outsourcing, pernicious welfare changes, fiscal austerity, out of control banksters, dramatic increases in income and wealth inequality, then Australia’s most recent effort will remind that it is still alive and well and morphing into something more nasty than we have previously seen (in this country). On Thursday (February 23, 2017), the Fair Work Commission, which is the judicial body empowered by the Federal Government to set minimum wages and conditions in all sectors (so-called ‘awards’) determined that the lowest-paid workers in Australia – more than a million of them (in an employed Labour Force of just over 12 million) – were getting too higher wages and incomes. Accordingly, they decided to cut wages – not just the real equivalent but the actual wage rates that these workers earn. The judges (who I guess do not work as a matter of course on Sunday) have fallen prey of this 24/7 greed for more profits and determined that Sunday work no longer justifies the existing penalty rates. Their decision to savagely cut them just means the bosses pocket more profits and workers move closer or into poverty with rising bankrupcties, mortgage and credit card defaults and the rest of it. The decision is a disaster for the lowest-paid (hospitality, retail and cafe) workers in this country and it will feed through to other sectors before long. The Federal government could easily legislate to stop the cuts. It won’t. The trade unions could rebel. They won’t. So it is really left to us – the citizens to do everything we can including boycotts of firms who exploit the decision to proctect the wages of the poor.
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    Posted in Labour costs | 16 Comments

    The Weekend Quiz – February 26-26, 2017 – answers and discussion

    Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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      Posted in Saturday quiz | 1 Comment

      The Weekend Quiz – February 25-26, 2017

      Welcome to The Weekend Quiz, which used to be known as the Saturday Quiz! The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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        Posted in Saturday quiz | 4 Comments

        Australia’s wage outcomes – a race to the bottom and nowhere

        Yesterday (February 22, 2017), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its latest – Wage Price Index, Australia – for the December-quarter 2016. For the fourth consecutive quarter, annual growth in wages has recorded its lowest level since the data series began in the December-quarter 1997. Real wages are barely growing and trailing productivity growth by a long way. The flat wages trend is intensifying the pre-crisis dynamics, which saw private sector credit rather than real wages drive growth in consumption spending. The Australian government, which should be showing leadership, is obsessing about who it can rope into a free trade deal now the US have scuttled the TPP. The lessons have clearly not been learned.
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          Posted in Labour costs, Labour Force, National Accounts | 8 Comments

          Australia’s household debt problem is not new – it is a neo-liberal product

          One of the defining features of the neo-liberal era has been the buildup of private debt, particularly household debt. The banks and policy makers all assured us that this was fine because wealth was being built with the debt until, of course, it came tumbling down for many as a result of the GFC. Recent commentary on Australia’s record household debt problem and the increasing number of Australian households that are now on the brink of insolvency and cannot pay their bills seems to think this is a new outcome – the result of record low interest rates as thew central bank (RBA) tries to curb the descent into recession. The fact is that the problem emerged in the 1980s as neo-liberalism took hold of the policy process. We have to understand that period to fully appreciate the household debt problem now.
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            Posted in Central banking, Economics, Fiscal Statements | 25 Comments

            The ECB should not become a fiscal agent

            On November 29, 2016, Mario Draghi, the President of the ECB wrote to Mr Jonás Fernández, a Spanish European Parliament member in reply to a request for clarification from the Chairman of the EP’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON). The Letter discussed whether it would be legal under the Lisbon Treaty for the ECB to engage in direct monetary transfers to citizens bypassing the Member States and whether such a policy would be beneficial for economic growth. Several commentators have seized on the response from the ECB as saying that such a policy innovation would be both legal and beneficial. My view is that, in forming this conclusion, they have not fully understood the difference between a monetary and a fiscal operation. While I think the policy would produce positive results, in the sense that it would stimulate growth and employment and reduce unemployment, I also believe it would be illegal under the Treaty. Further, I don’t think it is a progressive position to argue that a group of unelected and unaccountable technocrats in the central bank should be in charge of economic policy. That should be the responsibility of the democratically-elected members of the government who are fully accountable every electoral cycle. The ECB should not become a fiscal agent. Rather, if the Eurozone elites cannot implement (which they cannot) a full federal treasury function then it should disband the monetary union in an orderly way.
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              Posted in Central banking, Eurozone, Fiscal Statements | 22 Comments

              Mainstream macroeconomics – exudes denial while purporting to be progressive

              The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis recently published an Economic Policy Paper (February 7, 2017) – The Great Recession: A Macroeconomic Earthquake – by Lawrence J. Christiano (who is both at Northwestern University in Chicago and the Federal Reserve), which shows us that the mainstream profession has learned very little from their failures that were exposed by the GFC. This is a paper that exudes denial while purporting to advocated awareness and progression. There is a long way to go before economics turns the corner I am afraid.
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                Posted in Economics | 20 Comments

                The Weekend Quiz – February 18-19, 2017 – answers and discussion

                Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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                  Posted in Saturday quiz | 9 Comments

                  The Weekend Quiz – February 18-19, 2017

                  Welcome to The Weekend Quiz, which used to be known as the Saturday Quiz! The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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                    Posted in Saturday quiz | 5 Comments

                    Australian labour market – remains in a sluggish state

                    The latest labour force data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force data – for January 2017 shows total employment barely increased for the second month in a row and Australia’s status as a part-time employment nation firms. Over the last 12 months, Australia has lost 56.1 thousand full-time jobs (in net terms) and added only 103.4 thousand overall. This status as the nation of part-time employment growth carries many attendant negative consequences – poor income growth, precarious work, lack of skill development etc. The teenage labour market remains in a poor state but improved slightly in January. It requires urgent policy intervention. The unemployment rate fell by 0.1 points but only because the labour force contracted as participation declined. In other words, hidden unemployment rose while official unemployment fell. Not a win-win. Overall, the Australian labour market is weak and showing no signs of improvement. With weak private investment now on-going and real GDP contracting (in the September-quarter), the poor outlook signals the need for a policy shift biased to expansion. It is clear that the current restrictive fiscal policy position adopted by the Federal government is not sufficient to redress the inadequate non-government spending growth.
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                      Posted in Labour Force | 3 Comments